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Phobias 

Introduction
Phobias are a very common type of anxiety disorder.  People with phobias have a continuous fear of a specific type of object, place, activity, or situation.  Common phobias are a fear of flying, giving public speeches, heights, dogs, or snakes.  Confrontation with an object of a phobia causes an immediate extreme state of anxiety and fear.
 
Adults with phobias realize that their fears are illogical, but are unable to prevent their reactions to the feared trigger.  Some adults cope with phobias by avoiding the object of the phobia.  For others, phobias and the associated physical symptoms can be debilitating and interfere with their employment and daily life.  Therapy and medication can help the symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with phobias.

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Causes
The exact cause of phobias is unknown, but it appears that genetic factors may be involved.  Phobias may develop in children and adults.  Adults with phobias are able to recognize that their fears are irrational, but some young children may not.  Phobias may co-exist with other conditions including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and substance abuse

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Symptoms
Exposure to the object of the phobia causes immediate anxiety and discomfort that is out of proportion to the actual threat of the situation.  You may experience excessive sweating, a rapid heartbeat, and a rise in blood pressure.  You may feel like you are “frozen in your tracks” or have poor physical movement control. 

People with phobias may avoid the stimulus that causes a phobic reaction.  This may interfere with their jobs, such as a fear of flying in airplanes, or disrupt their social life.  Over time, people with phobias may feel cowardly and lose self-esteem.
 
There are different types of phobias, including specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia.  Specific phobias include a fear of certain objects or situations, such as spiders, driving across bridges, elevators, or the sight of blood.  People with social phobia fear certain social or social performance situations, such as speaking in front of an audience, attending parties, or dating.  Agoraphobia is a fear of being in a place or situation that may be difficult to leave or find help in the event of a panic attack.  People with agoraphobia may avoid situations that involve leaving their home.

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Diagnosis
Many people are able to cope with phobias by avoiding the particular stimulus or situation.  However, phobias can be problematic if they limit your daily activities, social life, employment, or quality of life.  A psychiatrist can begin to diagnose a phobia after listening to you describe your fears and symptoms and conducting an evaluation or interview.  A psychiatrist can also identify co-existing conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and substance abuse.

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Treatment
Treatment for phobias may include therapy, mediation, or both.  Systematic desensitization therapy involves working on confronting phobias.  Therapy may include real-life exposure to phobias to help reduce fears.  Phobia clinics or group therapy may help groups of people overcome fears, such as the fear of flying in airplanes.  Additionally, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications may help reduce the symptoms of phobias.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.